Except for deaths, most indicators of pandemic H1N1 influenza activity continued to decline last week, although all remained higher than normal for this time of year, according to new figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this morning. The increase in deaths linked to the disease is caused by a lag in reporting, and experts believe that deaths are also on the wane.
Swine flu activity is reported to be widespread in 14 states -- including California -- down from 25 during Thanksgiving week. Almost all the influenza viruses isolated and identified continue to be swine flu rather than seasonal viruses. Visits to doctors for influenza-like illnesses declined for the sixth straight week, following four weeks of sharp increases. Influenza-related hospitalizations have also declined again, but remain higher than expected for this time of year. Hospitalization rates continue to be highest in children up to 4 years old.
The proportion of deaths attributed to influenza and pneumonia increased over the previous week and has been higher than expected for 10 consecutive weeks, the CDC reported. Sixteen new pediatric deaths were reported in the week ending Dec. 5, bringing the total to 267 since April. That includes 224 due to laboratory-confirmed swine flu, 41 that were confirmed to be influenza but not typed, and two associated with seasonal flu. But that is believed to be an undercount. Estimates released by the CDC Thursday indicate that about 1,100 children have died from the flu.
-- Thomas H. Maugh II